Saturday, November 30, 2019

Cobaya Arson with Deme Lomas

Almost exactly four years ago, we did a Cobaya dinner with Chef Deme Lomas at Niu Kitchen, the small, Catalan inspired restaurant he opened with Karina Iglesias and Adam Hughes in 2014. Since that time, as Niu has continued to thrive, the team opened up Arson right down the block, a restaurant dedicated to cooking with live fire. We figured it was time for another round with Deme, and brought forty guinea pigs to Arson earlier this month.

(You can see all my pictures in this Cobaya Arson with Deme Lomas flickr set).

It was another great experience – interesting, delicious food all touched by the flames, with equally interesting, exciting wines supplied by Arson and Niu's wine director, GM and ringmaster, Karina Iglesias. Here's what we had:

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Ajoblanco, a traditional Spanish cold almond and garlic soup, topped with shavings of dried, salt-cured red tuna, served with fresh, ripe figs and a spear of charbroiled scallion. I've always been a fan of this "white gazpacho," and this was a really nice version.

Obscenely large but thoroughly tender white asparagus were topped with charbroiled green huancaina sauce (a creamy-spicy Peruvian blend of chiles, queso fresco and cream), and toasted sesame seeds.

One of my many favorites on the menu at Niu is a dish called "Clams - Deme's Mom's Recipe." This was a variation on that theme, with the clams steamed open and doused in a chipotle chile sofrito and a charbroiled garlic aioli. I could eat these every day.

Fat slabs of monkfish were cooked slowly in the Josper oven (the Josper drives much of the menu at Arson, a great cooking tool that combines a hardwood charcoal fired oven and grill), then plated with zucchini in two iterations – a purée pooled at the bottom of the plate, a fine julienne of zucchini with Giundilla peppers and golden garlic chips atop the fish. It was a great preparation for the monkfish, giving it a burnished, browned exterior while still preserving its silky, lobster-like texture and flavor.

For the final savory course, a charbroiled lamb chop doused in a red pepper juice vinaigrette, served with purées of burnt eggplant and Josper onions.

And for dessert, a combination of the nostalgic and the unexpected: a rich condensed milk gelato, dotted with little brownie cubes, then topped with a tart, floral passion fruit foam, dusted with chocolate "sand," and topped with a confetti of bright flowers.

Deme's cooking would be worth seeking out on its own, but what makes Niu and Arson so truly special is the combination of his food with the wines – and the spirit – of Karina Iglesias. Their restaurants are among the most interesting places to drink in Miami, focusing on delicious, food-friendly wines from small producers and unheralded regions. Rather than do a pairing, Karina put together a short list of wine selections for the dinner by the glass and bottle, offering more of a "choose your own adventure" type experience. I loved both the bright, perky Schwaderer Pais Brut Rosé I started with on Karina's suggestion, and the fresh, clean, silky  MicroBio Correcaminos Verdejo from Rueda, Spain that we drank along with dinner.

Arson is the kind of place that makes me happy: a spot you can have great, creative food done with attention to ingredients and execution, drink interesting wine that won't require you to take out a second mortgage, among people who genuinely want to make sure you enjoy it all. Thank you to Deme, Karina, and the entire team at Arson, and as always most of all, to the guinea pigs whose interest and support make these events possible.

104 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami, Florida

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